Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me." But the Lord answered her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her."
- Luke 10:38-42
Lord, do you not care that I am left to all the work by myself? And I don’t even have a sister to help, it’s just me and my ink-blotted to-do list, unending, big important bills to pay and small kitchen counters to sponge, not to mention, oh I don’t know, my hopes and dreams that take awhile, years even, my goals that I keep putting off because of the bigs and smalls of each mundane day? My cup runneth over, but not in a good way.
I appreciate you, Lord, of course I do, I’m grateful and joyful and all that abstract, vague shiny happy stuff, and I like to think that you know it in your larger-than-life heart, a heart beyond comprehension that still loves me when I hear my alarm and press Snooze, when I finish cleaning the kitchen and crash to watch “Seinfeld,” when I stay up too late and can’t close my eyes to pray, only to sleep. Yes, part of me feels guilty when I don’t linger long enough by your side – but is that guilt from society? Is it from the church? Is it from me, or from you? And what does “by your side” mean, anyway? Haven’t I at least welcomed you into my home, into my heart? Aren’t I always by your side, don’t I try – at least sometimes – to act how you would act?
Martha had you with her, inside her home, physically present – you were a guest for her, and so she hurried, and puttered, feared and resented Mary for spending time with you while she worked. If you were a guest in my house, if I saw you sitting on my big cushion-y couch, I like to think that I’d stop my sweeping, get you a glass of water and sit down with you for a nice long chat. I’d love that, in fact.
But Lord, you’re not here, at least not sitting on my couch, and yes, I understand that it means you’re here always, everywhere, and as miraculous as that is, as glad as I am for that, I’m not gonna lie: it makes it harder. If your voice is a small whisper, I have to stop and strain to hear. If your touch is a tugged heartstring, I have to stop and let myself feel. Our conversations sometimes seem so one-sided, and I have to stop and see if I can hear anything from your end. And I know that really the conversation never stops, so do I have to stop and listen every single second? And what if I don’t hear anything? Lord, I just don’t have time for it all.
Speaking of listening, I can almost hear you chuckling as I say that word over and over: Stop! Stop! Stop! Since when did that become a 4-letter word?
I complain about it, Lord, and you just smile – almost sadly? – at my 21st century hyper-drive brain. Maybe you’re thinking of all those times as a child when I would close the door to my room and play with my Barbies for hours, or read a book in one sitting, and have to be called away by Mom for dinner. Oh, that pure, contented childlike focus! And then you speak – yes, I hear it! It’s that exasperated-but-loving tone you get, the one you have with Martha: “You are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing.”
And so often I struggle against that, Lord, just like your long-ago child Martha: One thing? No way! The bathroom to clean, the groceries to buy, the Facebook to check because what if someone else got engaged and I’m the last to know? The book I want to read, the book I want to write, the “Homeland” marathon that’s on... because I put in the DVDs of my own accord and keep pressing Play. This is life, right? Many things? What is life supposed to be, Lord?
Ah. I guess when I reach a question like that, I need to stop asking – and start listening. “There is need of only one thing. It will not be taken away.”
I feel ashamed when life’s not easy, I feel ashamed when things are messy, and no matter how many times I sweep up before I go to bed, tomorrow is always going to bring more dirt. My all-important work will be undone and I will double back in exhaustion trying to fix, improve, perfect. But you, in all your abstract solidness, your divine humanness, you will remain, clean, whole, unruffled. You will not be taken away. And I pray that more and more I will have the sense to wipe my sweaty brow, put my broom aside, sit down, and listen.